To Swim Across the World

Publisher: Hyperion

Adult/YA:  To Swim Across the World is inspired by the lives of the authors’ parents. Frances Park and Ginger Park’s deeply affecting novel is based on the true story of a boy and a girl from opposite ends of the Korean peninsula who endure the Japanese Occupation, the division of their country, and, ultimately, the Korean War.

It is 1941, and Japan occupies Korea. For Sei-Young Shin, a young man from a poor family in the rural south, it is a time of oppression. Life is gentler for Heisook Pang, the daughter of a prominent minister in a northern city. In the aftermath of World War II, the power of Communism grows in the north and Heisook’s future is in peril. She makes a daring escape, slipping into the south where she meets Sei-Young, an encounter that will bond them for life.

History and its changes influence Sei-Young and Heisook in different ways, but their stories share sacrifice, tragedy, and love. Precisely and beautifully written, To Swim Across the World is a moving vision of a country’s terrible and recent past, and an intimate account of the interlocking of two lives, and two destinies.


“The ancient Asian precept of honoring one’s elders is alive and well in the 21st century and exquisitely rendered in To Swim Across the World.” USA TODAY

“Aim a telescope at a constellation or a village street and each degree of magnification makes the field smaller and the detail greater. This fine, intimate novel about two young Koreans one from the North, one from the South focuses on small fields.” PUBLISHERS WEEKLY

“History would remain as dry as dust, never moving or inspiring us, if it merely catalogued events. For history to come alive, to convey anything meaningful about the past, the present, or ourselves, it must consist of people… In To Swim Across the World, an imaginative retelling of the real-life experiences of their parents, second-generation Korean-American sisters Frances and Ginger Park give us just such a history.” SUN-SENTINEL

“To Swim Across the World is an amazing novel of faith and survival… The authors have woven a remarkable testimony to the power of courage and love.” THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS

“Told in a language of crystalline simplicity and poetic lyricism, To Swim Across the World gives real life history a shimmer of legendary timelessness. Combining true stories, creative vision and world events, Frances and Ginger Park have created a genre-defying book and an immensely pleasurable reading experience.” PALO ALTO DAILY NEWS

THE SUNDAY OREGONIAN – Pick of the Week: Fiction

GLAMOUR – June 2001 “Must Reads” Selection

WASHINGTONIAN – Spring 2001 New and Worth Reading

BOSTON HERALD – January 2002 Recommendation

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